With Mike Smith injured once again, Mikko Koskinen struggling, and the Oilers in a tailspin at the moment, they’re on the lookout to try to shore up their goaltending. To that end, Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reported in the latest TSN Insider Trading segment that Edmonton has kicked the tires on Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
With Elvis Merzlikins inking a five-year, $27MM contract extension at the start of the season, he cemented himself as the starter of the present and future in Columbus, basically making Korpisalo expendable. The 27-year-old is also on an expiring contract with a $2.8MM AAV and while Edmonton’s salary cap situation doesn’t exactly give them much in the way of flexibility, some retention and some good fortune on the injury front could make a move doable.
Prior to this season, Korpisalo’s track record had been decent with a .905 SV% and a 2.90 GAA over his first six NHL campaigns. Those aren’t numbers that scream a sizable upgrade but mediocrity would still be an upgrade on what Edmonton has had at times over the past few years, Smith’s strong 2020-21 campaign notwithstanding.
However, this season has been another story. Korpisalo has a 3.95 GAA and a .882 SV% in 14 games, the worst numbers of his career by a significant margin. Edmonton’s goaltending has struggled this season but the trio of Smith, Koskinen, and youngster Stuart Skinner have done better than that. In that sense, there’s some question on how much he’d move the needle for the Oilers and whether or not that’s the best use of their very limited cap room.
While Edmonton needs a longer-term upgrade, affording one with their cap situation would be a significant challenge. Even a higher-end rental starter would be tricky with the Oilers in a money-in, money-out situation and the fact that few are available; TSN’s Darren Dreger noted in the same segment that Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury wouldn’t be a great fit for that reason.
In the end, all that GM Ken Holland may be able to afford is a nominal improvement at best and when you factor in Korpisalo’s track record, that’s about all he’d be. While there wouldn’t be a ton of upside with such a move, he’d at least give them some insurance between the pipes and with Holland not being interested in moving top young assets, this would be a move that could be made without moving those future pieces. With Edmonton not in a position to accrue cap space since they’re well into LTIR, it’s also a move that they wouldn’t have to necessarily wait until closer to the trade deadline to try to make and with the Oilers struggling, Holland may be forced to try to do something sooner than later.